Captivating Imagery: Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer and Professional Photography Services

Newborn Session – It’s a Girl: Baby Cosette

It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of photographing a baby girl, after a what seemed like the season of baby boys (including my own little sweetheart!) So when my friend, Susanna, found out she was having a girl, I was super excited to meet and photograph her darling baby.

baby portrait

Baby Cosette was a charmer. She actually seemed to be posing for the camera!

baby photography session

And here is one of the (many) first family portraits! I had a hard time choosing, so this is the image that they chose to print. I think they couldn’t resist this one because it looks like she’s smiling. Such a sweet moment! I love this family!

Pittsburgh-newborn-family-portrait

A Mother’s Boutique: Local Business Feature

I’m pleased to kick off a new series featuring some of my favorite local businesses that cater to new moms. As a newborn photographer and a mom, I love to pass on great finds like this first local business feature: A Mother’s Boutique. It is the byproduct of owner, Judy Masucci’s transition into motherhood, as she saw a unmet need for clothing for breastfeeding moms. While there are lots of chain maternity stores, Judy noticed that nursing tops were very limited and after countless hours of scouring the internet for stylish nursing clothes, she decided to do something about it and launched her business in 2007. Today, she continues her quest for the best products for new mothers including nursing bras, breast pumps, and baby carriers. And she’s become a real expert in bra fitting and even offers virtual bra fitting online for moms who aren’t within driving distance to her Wexford store.

a store for new moms in Wexford

One of the things I really like about Judy and her store is that she only employs moms so when you are there with questions, there’s always someone with helpful insight. And her team of experts includes birth and post-partum doulas and a certified lactation counselor. One of the reasons Judy decided to leave her corporate job and venture into small business was to help other moms with breastfeeding. She had some difficulties getting started with breastfeeding her own son and wanted to offer support to other moms interested in breastfeeding. Each purchase online or in person comes with very helpful and beautifully-designed informational pamphlets about breastfeeding. From the boutique’s blog, to the facebook group, to the mom’s group that meets at the store, A Mother’s Boutique is much more than a retail store. The store also hosts childbirth classes, and a cesarian support group called ICAN.

owner of A Mother's Boutique

Since the start of her business, Judy has developed a niche in nursing bras and offers an extensive selection. Oh, how I wish I knew about this store before. I am definitely looking forward to shopping there for our next baby. I told Judy that I felt like an absolute slob the whole time I was nursing because I just tried to make it work with the clothes I already had and really didn’t know there were so many great products out there that make it so much easier to nurse in public and still look good! Anyway, back to the bras, she offers sizes up through N cups, so everyone can find a cute, well-made and functioning nursing bra.

stylish nursing bras

Her products are made all over the world—from Australia to Singapore, and are mostly offered by other small business. Judy said, “they’re all moms who became a mom, saw a need, and did something to solve it.”

“We try to focus on things that moms need,” she said. “My goal is really to support the mom in what she wants to do. I try to carry products to empower moms to meet their own goals.”

Just this week, A Mother’s Boutiuque was featured on NBC Nightly News in a story called Built for Success about women-owned businesses, which I think is a just one more reason that this store is worth checking out! You can check out a YouTube video of the show here. Congrats Judy!

How to Hang a Wall Gallery

I’ve procrastinated on writing this post for just about as long as I have on hanging my own wall gallery. Is there anyone out there who loves hanging frames? I haven’t met anyone yet. I love to decorate our home with personal works of art. And I’m gung ho about making it happen from the photo shoot through framing that favorite print. But there’s always this idle time where I take my treasured framed print and lean it right up against the wall below the space where I plan to hang it. And then it just sits there for a few weeks until I decide to finally tackle the challenge.

Well, I recently put together a triptych (that’s a fancy term I learned in photography school for a series of three photos that I love to squeeze into my vocabulary whenever appropriate) from a outdoor session last summer with my son. And no matter how wild I am about these images, I knew it was going to be a big feat to get all three framed prints up on the wall in a pleasing arrangement so that they’re all aligned, level, and perfectly spaced apart. If you’re like me, the challenge of getting multiple frames to hang perfectly aligned and avoiding lots of holes in your wall, it can be all too overwhelming. So today, I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve learned throughout this process.

There are two main points I’d like to drive home in hopes that my experience will make yours a bit more bearable. The first is, it’s best to have a helper so that you have two sets of hands and can step back to see if you like the positioning as you go. And my second and most valuable lesson is to avoid measuring! Yep, no measuring tapes or rulers needed! Measurements are great when they’re precise, but it is oh so easy to mess up. Not to mention that you could have measured your layout perfectly and then not like how it looks when you see your artwork up on the wall.

Here’s a case in point, and I’m mildly embarrassed to share this lame first attempt…

hanging multiple frames on a wall

There two problems here with this first attempt. In my mind, when I was planning my measurements, I thought that allowing two inches between the edge of each frame would be enough. But when I stepped back, the frames looked like they were crammed together. And the second mistake I made was to measure from the crown moulding where the picture hangers should go… I never went back to figure out if there was an error in my measuring or if maybe my ceiling isn’t level, but you can see that the alignment of the frames is slightly sinking to the right. If I had used a level instead of measuring from the ceiling, I’m sure I would have avoided that.

Ok, on to my findings in what does work! I decided to get out a level and draw a straight line in pencil that would represent the top edge of my frames. If you’re not keen to taking a pencil to your walls, you could use a chalk line or painter’s tape to the same effect.

If you haven’t heard of Hercules hooks, they’re genius! I used those for the two outermost frames. When I went to hang the middle frame, I found that it was centered on a stud in the wall. So, I used a tried and true picture hanger for that one. Also, if you have plaster walls, the Hercules hooks won’t work. You may want to use a standard picture hanger or 3M Picture Hanging Hook.

picture hangers

Now for the second issue of finding out that two inches between each frame was not enough. I could have used craft paper to trace the shape of each frame, cut it out, and used painters tape to hang the grouping on the wall and tweak the positioning as needed. That’s really not a bad idea, but I have to be honest and say that I’m not that patient. I needed to make this happen during my son’s nap time because I had let this project go for far too long. However, if this sounds like a plan to you, you’ll just need to measure the distance from the upper edge of your frame to the place where the picture hanger would rest. If you have D-rings or sawtooth hardware on the back of your frame, it’s very straight-forward. If your frame has picture wire, just pull the wire taught in the center of the frame and measure from that point to the frame’s upper edge. Then take your measurement and mark the craft paper on your walls for the picture hanger of your choice.

When I was purchasing my Hercules hooks on Amazon, I stumbled upon a very handy tool that allowed me to skip that last part entirely. The Hang and Level helps you to figure out where the picture hanger should be located by allowing you to use the actual frame to determine the positioning. I’m not getting any kick-backs from this company, just passing along what I feel is a worth-while tool. So if you’re looking for a way to make your gallery wall project a little easier, you may want to check out their website to see what it’s all about. I’d also like to add that the tool comes with a built-in level. Anyway, I started with the center frame and determined it’s position by the width of the wall. After I found the center, I used the Hang and Level tool to find the mark for the picture hanger so that the top edge of my frame would fall on the level pencil line. Then I stepped back and determined how much negative space I wanted on either side of the frame. I just eyeballed it and hung the second frame. Then I measured the space between the two frames so that I could duplicate that distance on the other side. I used the word measure, but I didn’t actually use a ruler. I just marked both edges on a piece of paper and transposed those markings on the other side and it worked! Here’s the finished look:

how to hang a wall gallery

I love how these prints look together and now I think I’ll be hanging more wall galleries in the near future!

How to Choose a Photographer for Your Newborn, Children’s or Family Portrait Session

There are tons of photographers to choose from these days and this post isn’t meant to bash newbies who are just getting started in the business. This post is meant to help anyone who is looking to create meaningful images of their family or loved ones by offering some insight on what to look for in a photographer so that your investment isn’t wasted.

There are three main areas that come into play when choosing a photographer: professionalism, skill and style. I’ll spend some time going over concerns for each of these areas so that when you’re considering a photographer, you can be prepared with the questions that matter most to you. And because this post is pretty lengthy, I feel I need to give you something cute to look at.

newborn session photo
When you’re spending a significant amount of money, you want to make sure you’ve made the best decision. For instance, did you have a mental list of features you were looking for when you purchased your last smart phone or laptop? Better yet, I recommend approaching your search for a photographer like you would a contractor to remodel your home. Interview several photographers and try not to get bogged down with their various approaches like packages or session fees. Some of the more important benefits of working with a good photographer are harder to measure. Here’s one that should be at the top of your list: do you like this person? If the photographer you’re talking to is hard to connect with or rubs you the wrong way, chances are slim that you’ll like the photos they create for you.

Professionalism
Ok, down to the nitty gritty—I’m pretty sure everybody wants to work with a photographer who is reliable and organized, someone who shows up on time and delivers orders in a timely manner. You expect professionalism and there are a few ways you can determine if your photographer will do what they say they will do. Does he/she respond to emails or phone calls promptly? Are contracts required to book a session? Do they outline the date, time, location, fees, and deliverables? When you’re talking with this person, do you get the sense that they run a legitimate business complete with a federal tax ID and sales tax permit? Is this the kind of person who has all of their i’s dotted and t’s crossed? Do they have general liability insurance? Do they work with professional equipment and bring back-ups? I’m not suggesting that you ask all of these questions because that could get awkward, but just offering some things to keep in mind. For example, in a newborn session, you really don’t want your photographer balancing your newborn on a chair a few feet off of the ground without an assistant or someone to stand by and keep your baby safe. If you see images of babies posed like this on their site, ask them about their approach.

Is the photographer willing to spend a few minutes talking with you to learn about the types of images you are looking for? Might he or she suggest some locations or help with what to wear?

Here’s another question that’s worth asking: does the photographer back up their work in multiple locations and how long do they store past work? If you hadn’t gotten around to placing an album order and contact your photographer a year later, it would be pretty devastating to find out your images are gone.

Skill
A good photographer should be knowledgable about lighting and how to make their subjects look their best. These are skills that go beyond simply knowing how to use a nice camera. It can be tough to judge a photographer’s skill, outside of looking at their portfolio, until you’ve had a chance to work with him or her. So you might want to consider some of the following questions if you’re planning to hire the photographer again in the future.

Does the photographer respond to challenges with ease? Is he or she good at making you or your family comfortable in front of the camera? Is there any creativity in the way they capture the subject’s personality? The photos should speak for themselves. And if you haven’t previously worked with the photographer, you might want to look at more than one blog post or gallery for an overall feel of their work.

Style
This should be the easiest quality to consider when looking for a photographer. Do you like what you see on their website? Is the portfolio cohesive with the set of images feeling like they all belong together or do some of the images seem random and out of place? If a photographer’s portfolio has a random feel, you might not be happy with the images they create on the day of your session, because photographers with a random portfolio won’t have a reliable style that you can come to know and expect.

The Bottom Line
Whew, that’s a lot of info! So, to simplify your search for a photographer and save yourself from having to ask lots of questions, you could just check out the Professional Photographers of America’s Find-A-Photographer database to find a few photographers in your area. And after that, vet them by checking out their online reviews by going to Google Plus and searching the business name. There you’ll find candid comments by Google Plus users who want to share their experience working with that business. My husband and I use Google reviews for everything, where to eat, where to stay, etc. And I encourage my clients to do the same!

In-Home Maternity Session: Janelle and Andre

I mentioned photographing Janelle and Andre’s engagement session in a previous post about Janelle and Andre’s newborn session. I’m a bit out of order with this post because this session took place during the holidays at their home in Point Breeze, just two weeks before baby Lucas was born! I know they had a lot going on amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, but Andre was intent on making this session happen. He loved Janelle’s baby belly and wanted to be sure they’d have images to remember it by. Isn’t that sweet?

husband and wife maternity portrait

Let Your Love Show
In my post about baby Lucas, I recalled loving photographing Janelle and Andre’s engagement session. They’re just so comfortable with each other. So it’s easy to capture that natural emotion because they’re not afraid to be affectionate in front of the camera. Take this next shot as an example.

mom- and dad-to-be

Bedrooms Are a Great Place for Maternity Sessions
We did most of these shots in a bedroom upstairs. And I wanted to show a bit of the gorgeous trees outside their window, so I mixed in some light with the natural light in the room.

proud parents

Gosh, they’re so cute.

husband kissing expecting wife

Belly Shots
Pregnant bellies are beautiful and these images are a great way to show children where they came from and that they were loved even before they were born.

pregnancy photography

dad kissing the baby belly

Getting Ready for the Baby
When you’re expecting your first, there’s no doubt you’re going to accumulate lots of sweet details for your baby. Here are just a few items that are special to Andre and Janelle. They might not be able to hold onto the items themselves over the years, but a photo is a great way to hold on to these sweet sentiments.

baby shoes with mama and daddy

baby bear hat and booties

It’s easy to see, this baby is loved like crazy.

If you’re looking for a maternity or newborn photographer, let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

Learn more about my custom newborn photography services